Archive | December, 2012

Look for an Evergreen Day

December 19 is Look for an Evergreen Day!

If you opt for a real Christmas Tree in your household, this may be your last chance to find the perfect pine, spruce, or fir. If you have already tracked down your tree, then this can be a day to simply admire those evergreens you pass on your daily commute.

The tradition of decorating a tree for Christmas dates back to 16th century Germany. The town would gather to decorate a single tree in the market square with candles and wax ornaments. Nowadays, you can find a decorated tree in almost every house that celebrates Christmas and the decorations are a bit more ornate.

If you have been procrastinating, today is the perfect push you need. Go Look for an Evergreen!

Sources: National Whatever Day, The Ultimate Holiday Site

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Gifts That Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Long-Distance Love During the Holidays

In the case of long-distance love, all those miles can make your heart grow fonder— or, tangle it up in a frustrating knot. Either way, sending your long-distance love a thoughtful gift is a must this holiday season. There are more than 14 million long-distance relationships in the U.S. right now, and 3.75 million long-distance marriages, according to That’s a lot of late-night Skyping and frequent flier miles!

If you are determined to make it work, then it’s time to dive into the world of intimate, heartfelt gifts (note: gentlemen, “intimate” does not mean “erotic”) for that lovely lady you miss curling up with every night.

For the Traditional Trend-setter

No matter how much the lady doth protest, women love flowers. They might say they’re cliché, but that’s generally code for, “I’m used to not getting flowers.” If that’s the case, make this the year that changes— send roses.

In this on-the-go era of cell phones, traffic jams and back-to-back meetings, chances are good your special lady needs some good old-fashioned romance. Flowers will enchant her.

If she’s worth going the extra mile for all year long, consider sending a seasonal bouquet about once a month. Flowers symbolize love, growth and beauty, all the things she embodies. Flowers are the ultimate gesture of chivalry and care.

For the Sweetly Sappy

This gift is enough to melt any heart. When you’re visiting your long-distance love this holiday season, arrange for a photographer to meet the two of you at a park or your favorite hotel for an afternoon photo shoot. This will testify to your desire to see her lovely face every day and commemorate your special time together. Her heart will sing.

Next, frame your favorite image of the bunch in matching frames and hang them up over your respective fire places. Every time one of you walks by and the other isn’t there, each will fondly recall your afternoon photo shoot – and, each other. Ah, love.

For the Organized

Or is that the disorganized? Either way, calendars and planners make a thoughtful and useful gift. They make them for every personality type out there, from animal lovers and tea drinkers to unicorn aficionados and food-o-philes. With 2013 stretched out before her like a wide open field, they’ll help keep her on track— not to mention, she’ll think of you every day of the year. Not that she doesn’t already, of course.

For the Avant Garde

If your lady loves to learn new things and explore the finer things in life, aim to transcend distance and time apart through art or literature.

Find out her favorite author or artist and do a little investigating. If she digs Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens, then the likelihood of finding or affording a signed copy or first edition of their work is slim. If, however, she has a slightly less well-known favorite book, you’d be surprised by some of the great deals on first editions and signed copies you can find on local auction sites.

The same goes for her favorite artist. Look around; you may be able to nab a signed print from someone local. You most likely can’t afford an original Picasso, but you can probably afford a high-quality Picasso print and a custom frame job. She will be elated.

Whatever you decide to get your long-distance love this holiday season, make sure it is reflective of who she is and how much you care for her. Whether she lives across town or across the world, give her something special to remember you by when you can’t be there.

A big thanks to our guest blogger, George Brown, for this article!

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The Mayflower Docks at Plymouth Rock

The Mayflower was a ship that transported 102 Pilgrims from England to the New World. The passengers sailed from London in September 1620 and spent more than two long months at sea. The trip was very rough, with constant waves threatening to destroy the ship.

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower anchored in Cape Cod and the Mayflower Compact was signed. Several passengers formed scouting groups to explore the snow-covered land in search of a suitable spot to settle. The groups returned to the ship and had found a harbor on the western side of Cape Cod Bay that they liked.

The Mayflower docked in modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 18, 1620, and its passengers prepared to begin Plymouth Colony.

Sources:, Wikipedia

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National Maple Syrup Day

Syrup grades largeHappy National Maple Syrup Day!

December 17 is a day to celebrate, appreciate and enjoy maple syrup. Pure maple syrup, that is; not pancake syrup, which contains no maple syrup at all.

Celebrate by sweetening oatmeal with maple syrup, topping vanilla ice cream with warm maple syrup, or drizzling syrup over a delicious stack of pancakes, waffles or french toast.

If you’re feeling extra festive about National Maple Syrup Day (and have maple trees in your backyard), celebrate maple syrup by making your own! Learn how.

Did You Know…You can use maple syrup as a healthy sugar alternative in baked goods and desserts? Simply replace the sugar with an equal amount of maple syrup, then, for each cup of syrup you use, reduce the quantity of liquid ingredients a recipe calls for by 1/4 cup. Replace liquid sweeteners with an equal amount of syrup. Find out the health benefits of maple syrup.

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Nostradamus’s Birthday

On this day in 1503, Nostradamus, a French apothecary, seer, and astrologer, was born.

Nostradamus is best known for his series of books titled “Les Propheties” (“The Prophecies”). Divided into ten “centuries,” “The Prophecies” were long-term predictions, many of apocalyptic nature, with each prediction written as a rhyming quatrain. Nine of the centuries contained 100 prophecies while one contained only 42.

In order to prevent himself from accusations of being a magician, Nostradamus was not only cryptic in his writing but wrote in a variety of languages through out the series. Yet, overenthusiastic believers of Nostradamus’s predictions have misinterpreted, mistranslated, or twisted the predictions to “prove” that Nostradamus predicted such events as the French Revolution, the Great Fire of London, the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Princess Diana, and even the 9/11 attacks. Nostradamus is even linked to predictions that he didn’t even write, including the 9/11 “prediction.”

What’s more, the interpreting is always done after the fact, with the benefit of hindsight, and with the concerted aim of proving the relevance of a given passage to an actual event.”

- David Emery, guide on Urban Legends

Many people are also linking Nostradamus to the Mayan prophecy that many believe marks the end of the world (December 21, 2012.) However, the Mayan prophecy, the Mayan calendar, 2012, December 21, and anything else related to December 21, 2012 are mentioned nowhere in Nostradamus’s works.

Celebrate Nostradamus’s Birthday by reading “The Prophecies” and making your own interpretations. To really get in the Nostradamus spirit, make some predictions of your own and compile them into a journal to pass down to the next generation.

And if you haven’t learned enough about Nostradamus already, check out these strange facts about the apothecary turned seer.

Sources: Wikipedia, How Stuff Works,,

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National Cocoa Day

Heiße SchokoladeHappy National Cocoa Day!

We’re not sure if  December 13 celebrates cocoa beans or hot cocoa (or the cocoa powder used to make hot cocoa and other chocolaty treats). Considering that we’re in the midst of December and the holiday season, we’re going to assume National Cocoa Day is a day to celebrate hot cocoa. There’s no better time of year to cozy up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa.

Did You Know…that chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can be good for your health? Cocoa contains flavanol antioxidants that improve cardiovascular health and may reduce your risk of heart disease and several types of cancer by protecting your body from damage caused by free radicals.

To reap the health benefits of your hot cocoa, skip the processed hot cocoa, which contains high amounts of fat and sugar, canceling out the health benefits of the chocolate.  Instead, make your own hot cocoa using unsweetened cocoa powder (more recipes below). Click here to learn the health benefits of cocoa powder.

Hot Chocolate (plus tips and variations)
“Perfectly Chocolate” Hot Cocoa (plus sugar-free version)
Hot Cocoa (plus variations)
More Hot Cocoa Recipes, Hot Cocoa Mix Recipes  and Tips!

Sources:,,, Photo Source: Itisdacurlz, CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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National Poinsettia Day

December 12 was declared a national holiday by the U.S. Congress in 2002. National Poinsettia Day celebrates the poinsettia flower and marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Poinsett came across the flower on a trip to Mexico and introduced the native Mexican plant to the U.S. when he sent a few back home to South Carolina. With the exotic flowers growing remarkably well in his greenhouse, Poinsett sent them to friends and botanical gardens all over the country. The flower became known as the poinsettia, a flower we’ve come to associate with Christmas.

Celebrate National Poinsettia Day by purchasing a plant for yourself or a friend!

Learn more about poinsettias, the history of its holiday and folk stories related to the flower here.

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International Mountain Day

Happy International Mountain Day!

The United Nations designated the year of 2002 as the International Year of Mountains to increase awareness of the importance of mountains and sustainable mountain development.  International Year of Mountains was so successful that the United Nations General Assembly designated December 11 as International Mountain Day, starting in 2003.

International Mountain Day is an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to the world’s mountains and highlands.

- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN agency leading the observance of International Mountain Day

Each year, International Mountain Day observance is centered around a particular theme. International Mountain Day 2011 will focus on mountains and forests:

It aims to raise awareness about the relevance of mountain forests and the role they play within a Green Economy as well as in climate change adaptation measures.


Check out our great selection of Mountain Calendars.

Learn more about efforts to protect mountain environments and improve the lives of people living in those environments at

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An Interview with Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman

Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman  are the creators and producers of the popular comic strip, Baby Blues. They have been writing it together since January 7, 1990, and it was picked up by King Features Syndicate in 1995.

Jerry, you work on Zits with Jim Borgman and Baby Blues with Rick Kirkman—that’s a lot of time with kids/adolescents. Do you ever go see rated R movies just because you can?
JS: You bet. But I cover my eyes at all the appropriate times.

What was the last really great movie you saw?
JS: Moneyball, Super 8, Rango, Hugo, The Help, Midnight in Paris… is that more than one?
RK: The latest would be Midnight in Paris. My list of recent ones would be about the same as Jerry’s, except I haven’t seen Rango, but I’d put Tangled up there.  I have to say, I find more compelling work on TV these days than in movies.

Can you tell us a little about your creative collaboration with Rick? How did the two of you become partners?
JS: We met when we were both living in Phoenix in the mid-seventies (gasp!) and discovered a mutual interest in cartooning. Rick was doing magazine cartoons and taught me how to make submissions to magazines. Neither of us made much money at it, but we never got tired of it and just sort of naturally drifted toward comic strips. Creating and producing a syndicated comic strip is a lonely job, so we decided to do one together so we’d have somebody to talk to (and to blame whenever the strip wasn’t funny).

Baby Blues has been in syndication since 1990, yet the material is as funny as ever. How do you come up with so much new, funny stuff?
JS: We have agreed that one of us is to always have at least one funny kid in the house at all times.
RK: I finally had to draw the line with a twenty-something in the house, deal or no deal. Luckily, my niece just had a baby. But she’s NOT moving in with us.

You both have children—how influential are they in your work?
JS: They might classify themselves as victims, but influential is a nicer word. Rick’s kids were the models for early Baby Blues, then mine came online. It’s a great thing to be able to make every embarrassing moment, disaster and frustration in the house into a profit.
RK: Best of both worlds: you get to shamelessly exploit them while they’re young, and then hold it over them about how you supported them with it—that is, until they get smart and figure out that you actually owe them for all the material they provided.

If you couldn’t do this as a career, what would your second choice be?
JS: I’d be a painter. A ridiculously successful one, if possible.
RK: Rock star, if I was any good, which I’m not. Professional tennis player, if I was any good, but I’m not. So, that leaves writer…

What kind of material do you read in your spare time?
JS: I read a lot of fiction – all types. I’m a fan of John Irving, Donald Ray Pollock, Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Chabon and a lot more.
RK: Fiction as well—John Irving, Michael Chabon, Stephen King, among others. I like suspense-genre novels and the occasional non-fiction book. I also read magazines—including articles about Apple products—and newspaper articles.

Wanda is a stay-at-home mom, which can elicit opinions from both other stay-at-home moms and moms who work outside the home. Do you get a lot of feedback regarding this? Does it influence her character?
JS: I wouldn’t say that we get a lot of opinions about Wanda’s career choice, but it seems to me that it’s a pretty even mix between women who think stay-at-home momming is the ideal, and those women who believe that working outside the home is the way Wanda should go. That said, Baby Blues isn’t a comic strip run by committee. We let the characters do what they will do.
RK: I think there was more feedback about it in the beginning as Wanda struggled with her decision more. As time went on, that became less of an issue. It’s a personal dilemma, and every mom (and dad) deals with it her/his own way.

Are there any big happenings coming up for the MacPherson family?
JS: Nothing planned, but that’s the way life works most of the time, isn’t it? They’ll never see it coming.
We will be publishing a hardbound Twentieth Anniversary book this fall that’s a must-read for Baby Blues Fans. It’s called BBXX. Rick has been working on this book for quite a while, and it’s going to be awesome.
RK: There’s no master story arc, just the way it is in life. I like being surprised…unless it’s another child. There’s just no more room in the panels. We’d have to take over another strip’s space if that happened.

When you look back over your long, successful career, what would you consider to be your “lucky break”?
JS: There have been several. I would have to say that meeting Rick Kirkman at a time when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life professionally is a big one. After that, I think it’s been a matter of making my own luck through hard work and preparation.
RK: Ditto, meeting Jerry. Meeting my wife, because having a child that deprived my wife and me of sleep at just the right time was, believe it or not, a break. Our other child deprived us of sleep, too, but the timing wasn’t quite right. 

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Human Rights Day

December 10 is Human Rights Day!

Human Rights Day was created in 1950 to commemorate the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The purpose of this global observance is to promote awareness of human rights issues around the world and to educate people on their human rights and the importance of recognizing and upholding human rights.

Each year, Human Rights Day observances and celebrations are centered around a particular theme related to human rights. In 2010, Human Rights Day recognized human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.

This year, the spotlight is on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.

-My Voice Counts

Click here to see past Human Rights Day themes.


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